LVIV, Ukraine – Thousands of people from around the globe have signed a petition protesting a recent resolution by the European Parliament asking President Viktor Yanukovych to reconsider the Hero of Ukraine award that was posthumously bestowed on Stepan Bandera.
During the World War II era, the nationalist freedom fighter led the difficult struggle for Ukrainian independence. Assassinated in 1959 by a KGB agent while living in exile, Bandera headed one branch of Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and backed its military wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which fought against Poles, Soviets and Nazis.
While there is no archival evidence to date that Bandera himself took part in pogroms against Jews, a brief alliance with the Nazis against the Red Army fueled Soviet propaganda which tainted him as a Nazi collaborator, and sparked widespread criticism of his movement by Jews. Supporters of Bandera see him as a hero, and are criticizing the European Parliament for siding with what they describe as a deliberate and anti-Ukrainian smear campaign.